Preconditions and Characteristics of High Performance TeamsCourtesy of June Anderson, Breakthrough Coaching, Inc.
Purpose Successful teams have a clear sense of why they exist. That usually means they understand the strategic significance of why they have been set up. They see their role in the broader strategic plan, they understand how their success will contribute to the organization’s strategic intent.
Empowerment Successful teams have a strong sense of being in charge of their own destiny. They believe themselves to be accountable for what they do, that they ‘carry the can’, and that they are responsible for their conduct. Their recommendations must be taken seriously by those who whom they report; their successes celebrated, their failures brought back for analysis and learning.
Support Teams need to be supported by the organization, and usually by the person to whom they report. Organizations are frequently mistrustful of teams, especially high profile teams known to be material to strategy. On the one hand teams need to be protected from this potential organizational hostility, on the other, their activities must be explained, properly presented to, and discussed with the organization at large. They must be buoyed up when they get miserable, reassured when they are in doubt, admired when they succeed, etc.
Objectives Successful teams have always translated their purpose into a series of measurable objectives. Further these objectives have been understood by each member and accepted by those responsible for the team. Measures and metrics have been set up and agreed and there is little ambiguity. True, these objectives may not emerge immediately, but once enshrined, they must direct the energy of the team.
Interpersonal Skills Successful teams develop the ability to work together without unproductive conflict. This does not mean that they do not argue or disagree. They simply do not allow differences to disrupt the achievement of the purpose or objectives. Almost always this means that they are respectful of each other’s views, open and honest in their opinions and they feel free to express differences. Nobody is made to feel small or stupid.
Participation Partly as a consequence of good interpersonal skills, successful teams generate a high degree of participation among members. People contribute their views and experience; more importantly they contribute their time and their energy. This enriches the raw material the team has to work with by providing a wider base of knowledge and active help in problem solving. Participation also implies that when team members undertake to do something, they actually do it.
Decision making Decisions are reached with a proper evaluation of the information; more, the team is good at gathering all the information. It looks at options carefully, considers consequences, is imaginative about alternatives and, at the same time, pragmatic and realistic. Members feel bound by decisions and even if they do not agree personally with them they support them in practice.
Creativity Successful teams almost always access new ideas, different ways of doing things, novel perspectives on events or circumstances. The team often develops the ability to ‘jam’ in the jazz sense – one idea leads to another, and another, and another… people build on each other’s thinking and often new ground is broken.
Managing the external environment Good teams ensure that members interact with their outside world – usually the rest of the organization, so that people know what is happening in the team to the extent they need or want to. This often reduces organizational suspicion and enables a higher degree of external co-operation and fewer unwelcome surprises.
Excerpted from: Kaizen Strategies for Improving Team Performance: How to Accelerate Team Development and Enhance Team Productivity by Michael Colenso (Editor)